Sometimes it is in the act of doing something to help someone else that we find personal growth. It is through the motions of selflessness that we more deeply connect with self. And it is through the act of giving that we are most likely, and often unexpectedly, the ones to ultimately receive. It is the growth through those acts that Alex Woodard’s book, For The Sender, illustrates so beautifully.
For The Sender – Four Letters. Twelve Songs. One Story. Is the journey of singer-songwriter Alex Woodard, who, after years of chasing his dreams, offers to write a song for anybody who pre-orders his self-titled release. However, the promotion came and went, the record deal fell apart, and it was a year before Alex got his first letter from Emily. She didn’t want Woodard to write a song for her, but instead wanted him to know that she felt his songs were pieces of himself that he gives to others, and she wanted to share her story as a gift in kind.
Being touched by Emily’s story, Woodard did write a song, and that song became two, three, and eventually Woodard had completed a dozen songs not only for Emily, but for the letters that followed, and the relationships that he built along the way. There were the stories of love, loss, growth and heroic acts of selflessness. Through those stories shared, and subsequent conversations, Woodard gave back to the sender, with his songs.
The senders in For The Sender get songs, but the readers of For The Sender get Woodard’s story, which is beautiful. As a writer, I love the way words can be woven to evoke a sense of time and place, and Woodard does that. Through the pages of the book, readers are taken on Woodard’s journey through love, loss, fear and uncertainty. He grapples with universal issues, and uncovers very personal truths. And through it all, he has his guitar, his hope, and his time with the music.
Woodard builds relationships through his journey with other musicians in his California neighborhood who he meets regularly for “family dinners”, and many of them contribute to the songs. While the relationships are built, they are not focused on as a primary in the book, instead, he fills the pages by demonstrating where’s he at and what his motivations are for each song. Not through conscious effort or any sort of posturing, just through his own life experiences, all of which are moments captured with grace and humility.
Woodard writes that the entire experience has been about other people’s stories and songs, but at the end while out surfing he realizes, “I let go of someday every time I take off on a wave and become more present in the moment. Life is better then, when I’m not thinking about me…All these songs I’ve had a hand in, about someone else’s story and rarely sung in my voice, and I’m happier than ever. It’s my same dream of making a moment in someone’s life better with a song, but it looks different now. I laugh as I realize that I call myself a songwriter, but I haven’t written a song about myself in months. And I take the next wave in, rush out of the water, up the stairs, and into the house, because my next thought overtakes me like the final sequence in a movie where all the scenes that didn’t made sense before come together in a heartbeat. Maybe I was somehow writing about myself. Maybe my story has been there the whole time.”
Reaching out and helping others isn’t about you, but the growth you experience and the change you feel as a result make it worth it, every time. So today, take some time to truly ask yourself how you can help someone along their journey, it will be good for both of you, I promise.
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